Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “birds”

Winter Wonderland Once Again

As stated earlier, the travel bug has not bit us. We hunker down in winter and practice wishful thinking for warmer climates.

All in all, winter is for the birds. Really. That’s what we are doing for entertainment. We have enticed juncos, nuthatches, chickadees, sparrows, finches, a part time dove, and an infrequent flicker to our front yard with seed and such and sit back and enjoy the show.

Took Rocket J. Squirrel a few attempts to reach the feeder

We have a very basic feeder and try to keep it filled; however when it’s 19 degrees, with a brisky wind, finding alternative methods of feeding our feathered friends, like tossing food out the window for them onto the snow is the solution.

The seed buffet has garnered the attention of other critters: squirrels and deer. The squirrels are comical in how they try to avoid going through the snow to get to the food. They traverse on the branches above and tail twitch in frustration that they can’t quite reach the feeder. We spent a good hour observing how one squirrel finally took the plunge and dove into the snow, tunneling a track to feeder’s base to glean dropped seeds.

All you can eat seed buffet

The deer easily amble over to the feeder and lick seeds off the tray. They are not perturbed by our presence at the window.

We think this little guy looks like a burro so we have dubbed it Burrito

The most entertaining morning session was when the squirrel and deer arrived at the same time. The deer held their ground and would not acknowledge the squirrel’s attempts to mosey up to the seed feed. Old Rocket would inch up, tail twitching in anxiety and then Burrito would level a look that translated as “Excuse me?” and Rocket would hightail up the tree and pace the limb waiting, waiting, waiting for his turn.

Showdown at OK Feed and Seed

As for the birds—their territorial flutterings are reminiscent of playground squabbling. There is one white-crowned sparrow who is pro at fluffing up his feathers and chasing off the smaller birds from the seed buffet.

Like little kids playground squabbling

For most, the chosen winter sport is skiing, for us staying warm, while we watch from our chair side seats the front yard antics, suffices. Although, truthfully, after the third snow dump (and it’s still early December) I might just look into those Costco travel brochures that we pass by when we load up on birdseed. I imagine there are birds I can watch from a beachside balcony.

Friday Film Finds:

At the end of the week I’m ready to kick back with a bowl of popcorn with a remote in hand.

As much as I need to read, there are times when settling back to watch a movie is the ticket to totally unwinding from the week’s stress.

I have discovered I have lost my interest in films that are steeped in human dramas—maybe it’s because I’m living my own. Big, raucous CGI flicks, like the Marvel world offers, are okay for mindless escapism. What I discovered that engages my interest most are nature documentaries. I subscribe to PBS mainly for their Nature program.

Our library carries an impressive array of DVD and Blu-Ray offerings, especially in nature shows. Browsing the stacks one day I discovered an amazing series:

A definite WOW!

From the library catalog description:

Narrated by David Tennant, this exhilarating adventure was filmed over four years and forty countries with help from camera-carrying birds, drones, paragliders and remote-countrol microflight planes. This wondrous aerial spectacle will make your spirits soar!

It is indeed exhilarating to be so up close to birds in flight and to witness behaviors not easily accessible by humans. The dedication and ingenuity of the film crew is certainly impressive.

As a Whovian, it was an added bonus listening to David Tennant’s Scottish-infused narration. I half expected the Tardis to be spied among the migrating flocks of geese.

Film Faves:

  • Extras: the behind the scenes of how the series was filmed
  • the gathering of the flamingos, acres and acres of the delicate pink birds was visually stunning
  • murmurations—how starlings swarm and cavort in the sky
  • penguins-it’s hard to go wrong with penguins

I suppose there is some therapeutic aspect to watching the life and times of animals, especially birds. There is wonder and appreciation for the natural world. The joy and satisfaction of knowing there is so much beauty and marvel in the world that is available with a click of the remote is indeed a welcome balm after a long, long week.

What is your animal of choice to watch?

A Dearth of Birds

Our once busy front yard bird feeder has grown silent. Usually there is a mix of winter residents such as nuthatches, chickadees, and other feathered friends who visit. Not this year.

Starting late summer we noticed decreased bird activity. Daily sightings dwindled until only ground feeders like the doves would appear. There was a flurry of pine siskins at one point but they are long gone.

We have missed our birds and are perplexed by their disappearance. Research shows bird traffic in some areas has diminished. Are birds deciding to isolate as well?

My solution? A faux bird. It permanently perches at the feeder and almost fools me that our birdie friends are somewhere out there.

Happy is the bird the bird that perches in wait of friends and feed

Anyone else missing their usual mix of backyard birds?

Fore Warned in My Musings…

Or this could be named: “Cricket Takes a Holiday”

(this is actually my second attempt at posting since the resort wifi is a bit tricky)

I will admit May is tough on teachers. Sure we get our free lunches, cards, and goody sacks on Teacher Appreciation day, but the rest of the year could use some boost and cheer as well. We are all a bit weary and the finish line is closer, yet not quite close enough.

If you are traisping over from my last post you understand I May *grin* be suffering from burnout. This is why I am on holiday. I took two of my hoarded personal holidays (we get three during the school year) and signed myself out for a four day weekend. Never mind it takes about three days to set up two days worth of lesson plans and I hope a sub can be found. I needed to get awaaaay. Yes, that is the sound of a teacher jubilating a happy sound as she pulls out from the parking lot Friday afternoon. And yes, there is a knapsack of ungraded papers I must deal with before I return to work on Wednesday.

The first two days of my retreat–wait, I need to digress…

Why call it a retreat, indicating I am running away from something when I am actually running toward what I embrace willingly without shame? There is honor is working in the trenches classroom. And maybe I am suffering from PTFSD (positively tired from student disconduct). 


The first two days were spent soaking up time with the hubs, who forbade any talk about school (good man), and soaking up the view, reading, sunning, and watching the swallows.

Our condo faces the fairway (have I got a story about nearly getting hit by a golfball–and I did have a forewarning, but not the yelled out kind) and is the flight path of the resident swallows. In fact, we share the roofline and they often sit near the rail, twittering and preening like tuxeodoed Woolworth parakeets. I love ’em. I left the robins home in the backyard. This is swallow country.


The third day finds me all by my lonesome. The hubs has returned home and I am told to “WRITE.” I have not been writing at home, being too (am)bushed from grading essays and creating lesson plans. This long weekend is meant to rejuvenate me enough to finish out the year and to get Something accomplished.

I have pulled up my Hamlet Choose Your Own Adventure manuscript. Not too much dust resting on it. I diligently worked on it all morning. I now have hit the wall. When that clock reads “1 PM” I have hit my creative capacity. I am not much good after sitting down four or five hours. I’m hungering for a walk. Either that or some chocolate. I better put on my shoes.

*update: I did both by stopping at the front desk to buy M&Ms to eat while I walked. Multitasking at its best.



NPM: #19–morning splendor

A Gift

Leonora Speyer (1872-1956)

I Woke: —
Night, lingering, poured upon the world
Of drowsy hill and wood and lake
Her moon-song,
And the breeze accompanied with hushed fingers
On the birches.

Gently the dawn held out to me
A golden handful of bird’s-notes.


There are so many lovely images resounding throughout. I envision summer–standing on a hill overlooking a grassy meadow, the sun slowly cresting the horizon and in that crystalline moment a trill of robin song adds to the joy of another morning, another day of promise.

Poet Appreciation #9: Wallace Stevens

World War I affected the world in a way that changed forever our outlook on life. Losing 50,000 young men in one day alone, is a travesty of waste. Lost lives, lost dreams, lost generations have a profound impact. One section of the world culture which was touched was that of the artist in all forms. In poetry, the Modernist movement began with its focus on looking at how this brave new world affects us. T.S. Eliot is most frequented with modernist poetry with his offerings such as The Wasteland and The Lovesong ofJ. AlfredPrufrock.

Wallace Stevens

Another poet of that time, Wallace Stevens, is as important as Eliot in his contributions to Modernist poetry, although Eliot seems to pop up first in Modernist contribution conversations. Bio facts of note for Wallace:

  • didn’t get published until he 44
  • attended Harvard, but had to leave due to lack of funds
  • Editor for both of Harvard’s publications
  • His wife the model for the Liberty dime and half-dollar
  • Career primarily as an insurance lawyer
  • Won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award
  • His poetry collection, Harmonium, ignored by critics when first published, is now highly regarded
  • His home town of Hartford, Connecticut has a walk devoted to his blackbird poem with signs of each section along the way
  • Connoisseur of Asian art

Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches Tigers
In red weather.

Just Swallow the Leader

Summer wouldn’t be the same without those plucky little backyard aereo acrobats–the swallow.

Although I have never been to San Juan Capistrano, I would surely like to be there when they make their yearly return.  The MEPA has related how spectacular the event is, and so it’s been placed on THE B.I.G. LIST. For now, I still thrill to seeing the few swallows that  swoop and dive and line twitter in our neighborhood. They are such cheeky little things with their bombing straifs if we get too close to their nest, and I always glance up upon hearing that endless parakeet chittering as they zip through the air on their bug runs.  Gosh, I just love ’em!


Growing up, my dad had constructed a row of birdhouses, nailing them to the back of the house which faced the sidewalk leading to my playhouse and the garden. I had to pass in front of this airport of activity if I wanted to go to either of these favorite hangouts. The frantic commuter flights both enthralled and frightened me, and I distinctly remember the cacophony of the endless tweets and peeps of fledglings and parents.

Moving to Northern California for continued college, I can’t tell you how ecstatic I was to discover swallows galore. Maybe they got confused or liked the area better than San Juan Capistrano. These guys weren’t the shiny, futzy glossy white shirted swallows, these were the raucous barn swallows who much preferred making nests of mud in the most inconvenient places.  Whole apartment duplexes of them! As much as I loved them, I did not like the mess they made on the stairs which I had to use everyday.


Once we got settled in our own house I convinced, begged, and bothered the MEPA to install three birdhouses.  Great guy that he is he did so.  It’s taken almost four years for swallows to rent out one of the bungalows. The middle remained unoccupied and a family of chickadees moved into the other end house.

The chickadees have been long gone, but those swallows, my oh my, talk about failure to launch! They’ve been keeping mom and dad busy for these past few weeks. But today was the day they finally moved out.  Like most kids, they blew this small town and mom and dad must have fallen deep into empty nest syndrome, because they seem to have moved on as well.

The robins never returned from last year, and there just doesn’t seem to be as many birds at the feeder this year.  The progeny tease us how we’ve turned into old folksies with our bird books, binocs, and have our chaise chairs aimed towards the feeder.

“Look, hon, a chickadee–or is it a junco?”

“Ohmigosh, it’s an oriole. Lookitlookit.”

“Two o’clock. Nuthatch.”

I got birding love from my dad, and I now I got the MEPA hooked on birds. He’s taken it to a far higher level than me, however. He’s got a telescope trained on the feeder, has at least two bird books on hand for identification, and he talks and whistles to them.  He even gets them to land on him when he’s changing the feeder.

That’s a bit over the top for me and I get a little snippy with comments about nutty about nuthatches.  I kind of feel like Lucy when she catches Linus petting the birds on their heads and yells at him to knock it off.  Don’t know why it makes me crabby when he talks to the birds.  I best watch out. I wouldn’t want a Hitchcockian adventure in the backyard.


My bird book of choice (from a college birding class I took):


The Baby Robin Song

American Robin -- Humber Bay Park (East) (Toro...

American Robin — Humber Bay Park (East) (Toronto, Canada) — 2005, by User:Mdf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we have been watching the last batch of robins readying for their imminent departure I found myself humming a tune:

There were four robins in the nest

and the little one said:

“I’m squished.  Move over.”

So they all moved over  and one flew out,

and there were three in the nest

and third one said:

“I’m squished. Move over.”

So they all moved over and one flew out,

and there were two in the nest

and the second one said:

“That’s better.  You good?”

And the first one said,

“Yup.  Works for me.”

At least that’s what I think is going on.   I had received an update on the baby birds whilst out shopping yesterday (we take our baby birding seriously) and contemplated rushing home to watch the event.  Costco won out and by the time I got home one of the birdies had flown.  Towards the evening it looked like another might be heading out but then all three hunkered down into the nest so only the tips of the beaks were sticking up.

Smart birds.

A summer storm kicked in an hour later and that birdie knew the nest was the best place to be if being a baby bird.

This morning I heard a cacophony of cheeping outside my bedroom window.  Upon checking I found the third baby robin just below the nest and forlornly indicating its angst of separation anxiety.  When it saw me approach it flew up into what I call the launching pine (it’s where all the robins seem to fly from the nest).  It hung out there for the longest time.  It’s still there and I still hear its lamentable cheeps.  I wonder if it’s having second thoughts about leaving the nest?

As I listen to its pitiful cheeps this book came to mind

I think our little bird is saying, “Mom? Mom?”  And I hope mom bird stops by and encourages her baby to find flight, grab a worm, and enjoy the sights.  At least that’s what I’d recommend.

UPDATE: the birds are gone. Rats.  I came home from morning appointments and the nest was empty.  I hear scattered cheeps up in the pines and I hope to spot them on the lawn learning how to get their own grub.  A couple of pics to share:

Getting Ready

I’m out…now what?

Badminton, Barbecue, and Baby Birds

The other day we were enjoying the fine summer evening with a mix of badminton, barbeque, and the usual family hi-jinx. We have tried to be courteous and considerate of our new neighbor, especially since it appears she is a single mother with four babies.  The babies make absolutely no sound.  Unheard of.  They patiently wait at home while mom is out getting them food.  We keep an eye on them for her when we can.  Recently, we noticed the babies were about to take that first significant step of independence and leave home.  I know–what? Babies leaving home?  Sorry, I couldn’t help but build up a gotcha.  The mom is a robin who’s built her nest right in the corner of our patio and garage. Silly, silly birdie.  Didn’t she know what a noisy lot we were?  We have been watching with anticipation as the birds went from hatchlings to fluffy bits.

This particular evening I had a feeling the birds were about to head out.  All day long they had been stretching up and airing out their wings and periodically during the day I would check on them.  A countdown began.  Four babies. Three babies. Two babies.  Finally, the one lone baby robin left in the nest.  We encouraged it and cajoled it to head out into the unknown.  It resisted and began pitifully uttering dismal little chirps–they were much too soft to qualify as cheeps.  Some of my family had grown restless waiting for the big moment and wanted to return to the game.  I decided I wanted to actually witness the big moment of baby bird first flight and sat down with my book.

“Forget badminton, will ya,” I stubbornly replied to tauntings to rejoin the game.

“Oh, it will be awhile for it goes.”

“Nope, any minute now.”

More stretchings and wavering pips from the corner nest.

“Hey, maybe it is goin–”

“Look! There it goes!”

“That was really cool!”

With a birdie sigh of “Now or nothing” the last baby flapped its wings and zipwinged it to the pine tree at the edge of the yard.  With shouts of “Hooray!” we congratulated one another on witnessing the positively, absolutely neat event we had just watched.

Witnessing the resolution and trepidation of a baby robin before it determines, “Yup, this is it” is a moment to always remember.  There’s definitely an extended metaphor in here somewhere.  Robert Frost–any commentary, sir?

Update: Mom’s back with a second brood.  I guess we weren’t such bad neighbors after all.  Looks like this batch will be taking off within the next week.  The Flight of the Baby Bird II?

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